Benjamin Franklin’s Virtue Ethics Project

When he was 20, Benjamin Franklin developed a list of 13 virtues which he would try to practice for the rest of his life.

His commentary in his autobiography was interesting. Basically, he said that if you look at what successful people are doing, a lot of them are doing similar things. He figured that he could become successful by also doing those things.

Here’s his list of 13:

  1. “Temperance. Eat not to dullness; drink not to elevation.”
  2. “Silence. Speak not but what may benefit others or yourself; avoid trifling conversation.”
  3. “Order. Let all your things have their places; let each part of your business have its time.”
  4. “Resolution. Resolve to perform what you ought; perform without fail what you resolve.”
  5. “Frugality. Make no expense but to do good to others or yourself; i.e., waste nothing.”
  6. “Industry. Lose no time; be always employ’d in something useful; cut off all unnecessary actions.”
  7. “Sincerity. Use no hurtful deceit; think innocently and justly, and, if you speak, speak accordingly.”
  8. “Justice. Wrong none by doing injuries, or omitting the benefits that are your duty.”
  9. “Moderation. Avoid extremes; forbear resenting injuries so much as you think they deserve.”
  10. “Cleanliness. Tolerate no uncleanliness in body, cloaths, or habitation.”
  11. “Tranquility. Be not disturbed at trifles, or at accidents common or unavoidable.”
  12. “Chastity. Rarely use venery but for health or offspring, never to dullness, weakness, or the injury of your own or another’s peace or reputation.”
  13. “Humility. Imitate Jesus and Socrates.”

He didn’t try to do all of them at once.

Instead, he would focus on one of the virtues each week, and mark down how many times he failed to live up to it. The pages he did this on eventually ran out, and by then he was richer, so he bought ivory plates to do it on.

This seems like an excellent idea.

You can read his commentary on it here (turn the pages a few times):


About atucker

Provisional pronouncements and (hopefully) honest mistakes. I'd like to be differently wrong about things, and helpful to the world.
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3 Responses to Benjamin Franklin’s Virtue Ethics Project

  1. VeroVero says:

    It’s a very good idea to make a list of virtues and values and keep to it. I think you should make your own, though, since no matter how well thought-out Ben’s is, you’re not him. Always try to think such things out for yourself, enjoy the spark others give you but think for yourself. 🙂

  2. Vero says:

    I’d like to see your list of virtues in here next… 😉

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